Beaufort man advances to semifinals in diabetes innovation challenge

After losing his sight in one eye, type 1 diabetic Michael Frederick knew he had to make a change.

He started exercising regularly and paying closer attention to his glucose levels. The 53-year-old Beaufort architect now runs, rides his bike and rows a few times a week. He wears a continuous glucose monitor and uses an insulin pump. He also wears a heart rate monitor when exercising.

While working out, Frederick has noticed a correlation between his heart rate and blood glucose levels -- when the former increases, the latter decreases. And when his glucose levels go down he does not have the energy to further intensify his workout.

"When I'm out on my bicycle and I'm riding and I'm trying to keep up a hard pace, I'll notice that I can't get my heart rate up as high as I usually can, even though my continuous glucose monitor says I'm fine," Frederick said. In other words, he'll know before the monitor that there's a problem.

Frederick wants to study this link further and is hoping a diabetes innovation challenge will help him do so. He said heart rates could be used to improve glucose control during activity.

In February, Frederick heard that French pharmaceutical company Sanofi was hosting a competition for innovative ways to fight diabetes. The purpose of the 2012 Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge is to create ideas to improve the quality, delivery and cost of care for diabetics.

When Frederick heard about the challenge, he contacted Jim Stritzinger, creator of Columbia-based EnduringFX, and asked if he would be interested in partnering on the project.

Stritzinger created the digital fitness program in RiverFront Park in Columbia to encourage people to be more active. The online and mobile application allows users to track physical activity and set fitness goals.

Frederick said Stritzinger was happy to help out. All they needed to do was add a diabetic level to the EnduringFX system. So the two combined Stritzinger's interactive program with a blood glucose monitor and a digital scale to track activities affecting blood glucose levels.

About a month ago, the two found out they were selected as one of five semifinalist teams in the contest.

"We were just surprised," Frederick said. "We had no idea. There were 70 worldwide submittals, and they picked five."

Each semifinalist team had the opportunity to attend a design boot camp in San Francisco and received $20,000 to further develop their ideas. The teams presented their innovations to judges May 16 in New York. Their presentations were recorded and posted online for public voting. Two finalists will be chosen and awarded $10,000 to collect feedback from the community on their concepts. The winning team will be announced July 16 and will receive $100,000 to complete its new product.

"The only study that has been done of it is just me," Frederick said. "So I'm hoping that with this next phase, if we get selected as one of the two, that we'll be able to get some other people and actually start doing testing. And if one of these big pharmaceuticals picks it up, then we can have some real testing done."